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Perspectives on bhbia2024 from two of our industry’s Rising Stars

May 30th, 2024

Back in January, we launched the Rising Stars Prize to offer newer members of our industry an opportunity for professional development through attending the BHBIA Annual Conference and shadowing members of the BHBIA Board.

This is part of a broader initiative to encourage young professionals to become more involved in the BHBIA’s activities, which also saw five people win complimentary tickets to the BHBIA Winter Seminar in December 2023.

Here, our two winners, Olivia Hughes from Basis Health and Georgia Culley from boxee group, share their reflections on two days of learning and connection at the conference and their experience of the BHBIA more generally.

Their key message to other young professionals? Get involved with the BHBIA!

We know that companies may not always be able to prioritise conference attendance for more junior team members, but there are plenty of other ways to benefit from your BHBIA membership in the first few years of your business insights career.

If that’s you, our Rising Stars Connect Group, the BOBI Best Newcomer competition (the 2025 awards will launch in December), our free member events and webinars or our Foundation Series are a great place to start.

The BHBIA Annual Conference 2024 was my first conference experience in my career, so I wasn’t entirely sure what to expect. Heading to the conference, I really wanted to experience as much of it as I could, enrich my understanding and knowledge of the trends in healthcare insights and expand my network with both new and familiar faces across the industry. My time at the conference really exceeded expectations and I feel it was a truly valuable experience for me, both personally and professionally.  

Fascinating talks and Workshops

During the two days, various individuals and companies across the industry held several interesting talks and workshops, from fieldwork agencies to the pharma side. It was fascinating to hear about what different people are doing in their work, innovative approaches to market research, and new techniques that have been developed. A particularly interesting talk was one on a novel approach to carrying out patient journey research by putting the patient at the heart of the story through the “Hero’s Journey”. This provided interesting insight into how we can reframe findings to help our clients address patient needs most effectively.

Another aspect of the conference I truly enjoyed was a very thought-provoking workshop on Gender Inequalities in Oncology Healthcare. While many of the findings were somewhat emotional to hear, this really shed light on the challenges the NHS faces in providing a high and equal standard of care to cancer patients, particularly as the landscape and treatment approaches evolve. The personal stories of cancer patients shared during the workshop were extremely powerful. They highlighted how important our work can be within the industry to shed light on the difficulties faced in healthcare to incite policy change and make an impact.

Other great, slightly more light-hearted talks that I thoroughly enjoyed were Nick Southgate's on why we should take conspiracy theories seriously and Rory Sutherland's, who closed out the conference on Tuesday as the final keynote speaker. Both talks were entertaining and demonstrated the range of insights and topics covered throughout the conference, with truly something for everyone!  

Networking opportunities

Throughout the conference, I had the opportunity to meet and network with lots of different people from across the industry, from clients to other young professionals at a similar stage of their careers to me. It was great to make these connections and it was really interesting to hear about other peoples’ backgrounds and connect with our shared interests and experiences. I also learned a lot about the skills and value of networking, and I know I will be using my LinkedIn page and connections a lot more in the future!

Shadowing the BHBIA Board

As a recipient of the Rising Star Prize, I was lucky enough to have the opportunity to shadow members of the BHBIA board throughout the conference. This was an amazing experience, particularly as it was my first conference; the level of organisation behind the scenes to set up such a large event is admirable. Shadowing the board also gave me some insight into the role of the board members in running the BHBIA, not just during the conference but throughout the year.

It was great to be involved in board meetings before the conference started. I was also lucky enough to attend an Advisory Group meeting with pharma members. This gave me great insight into the challenges client companies are facing day-to-day and how the BHBIA can best offer support and resources to members moving forward.  

Overall experience

Attending the BHBIA Annual Conference was a genuinely enriching experience; from the talks and workshops to the Board meeting and the BOBI awards dinner, it was an enjoyable and insightful few days. I am excited to continue to be involved in the BHBIA moving forward and to attend and be involved in more events throughout the year. Winning the Rising Stars prize provided a fantastic opportunity to get involved in the conference from a slightly different perspective and see the “behind the scenes” workings. It has opened my eyes to the wider world of the industry and ways I can be more involved throughout my career, and I would encourage anyone to attend whenever they get the opportunity!

My key takeaway

It’s so important for young professionals to have opportunities like this, whether through the Rising Stars prize, the BOBI Best Newcomer competition or companies encouraging their young professionals to attend the BHBIA conference. All the other young professionals I met at the conference were super keen and enthusiastic about learning and meeting new people.

It’s great that we’re all part of a curious and inclusive industry, and it’s been lovely to experience this firsthand at the conference.

My expectations and learnings

Expectations were high! I attended the BOBI gala dinner last year through the Best Newcomer award and got a glimpse into what the conference entailed then.

This conference did not disappoint. The opening keynote speakers started both days with a bang. From these two alone, observing their presentation skills taught me how to turbocharge my own presentations with humour and leave a lasting impact on my audience.

The most surprising statistic of the whole conference was part of Lumanity’s talk, where I learned that 37% of TikTok users bought a pharma product (in the EU) after watching a video about that product. Who knew social media could be so impactful?

Day One compared an actual patient with a CHAT GPT synthetic respondent. Although most of the audience guessed the synthetic respondent correctly, I’m surprised that approximately a third guessed it incorrectly… maybe synthetic respondents are something to consider for hypothesis generation at the start of a project or for proposals.

I loved Sofia’s (my line manager at boxee, of course I have to call her out!) talk on identifying the one KPI that matters most. She uses this method as part of my progression; I have one critical KPI to strive for. Sometimes, we all need a reminder that going back to basics is the best way to measure the facts we need rather than what’s ‘nice to have’.

Finally, Elma Research’s patient archetypes through the lens of a hero’s journey was an interesting spin on something the team already uses. We use a method called ‘Save the Cat’ and it was great to see this visualised in such a clear way at the conference… something to take forward into presentation writing.

Behind the scenes

I feel very lucky to have had the opportunity to get involved and see what it’s like to be on the BHBIA Board and the efforts behind such a great event. It all started with a meeting and dinner on Sunday to meet board members and understand the practicalities of organising a conference, even down to the small things, such as the coffee break tables!

At the end of day one, we listened to the pharma advisory board to understand what thought leadership means from their perspective and how the BHBIA can support them. I look forward to hearing the outcomes of these advisory boards!

On day two, the board came together for a feedback and wrap-up session. I really appreciated their openness to take on feedback from all of us.

Last but certainly not least, it was a great opportunity to get to know Olivia, my rising star partner in crime! It was so fun to experience this opportunity alongside Olivia.

The impact

The insights I’m walking away with have already led to some very practical outcomes….

  • ’m preparing an omnichannel ‘mini-workshop’ for the boxee team
  • There are discussions about a comedic workshop with Sam Avery (the comedian on day two!)
  • I celebrated being a finalist for the BOBI Chair’s Award: Best Approach to DE&I with our lovely clients, which was our first opportunity to meet them in person.
  • Some new methodologies are underway after discussing thoughts around talks with others in the industry.
  • I have loads of new connections, from getting to know the BHBIA Board members to saying hello to clients in person and even meeting those working in animal health!

I feel the practical impacts outlined above, combined with the knowledge I’ve learned from the talks/workshops and knowing that I can make it through a conference with a big smile on my face, have supported my career progression. I look forward to ‘showing off’ all of the above in my next appraisal. 

Olivia and the Basis Health team at the Gala Dinner
Georgia and her boxee colleagues ahead of the BOBI Awards Ceremony